Raleigh, N.C. — The Wake County Mayor's Association spoke out Monday against a bill that would limit city and town leaders' authority to control home appearance and design.
Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles called the measure – House Bill 150, which was approved last week in committee and sent to the House floor – a "dire emergency."
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane said it could lead to incompatible development and hurt property values.
"To open up what can be built next door to almost anything, it is kind of frightening to people," she said.
McFarlane said last week that Raleigh has developed zoning regulations in response to community requests, with the overarching goals of continued growth and providing affordable housing. The city wants to control things like the placement of bedrooms and bathrooms within homes, she said, to ensure rooming houses don't sprout up in single-family neighborhoods.
She added Monday that the bill would also void parts of recently approved building guidelines that included citizen and developer input.
"This bill is in direct conflict with that," McFarlane said. "It really takes away the power of citizens."
Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, who is a sponsor of the bill, said it's important for homeowners to have some say in the design of their homes.
The North Carolina Home Builders Association and the North Carolina Association of Realtors agree.
"There are definitely benefits to having a neighborhood look a certain way, but our contention is it is up to those homeowners," said Cady Thomas, spokeswoman for the realtors' association.
Those who support the bill also point out that it does not take away power from homeowners associations or historic districts.
Home Builders Association spokeswoman Lisa Martin said some local leaders go too far in controlling home appearances.
"There is no public purpose to it. It costs a lot of money," Martin said. "It can price people out of the housing market and get rid of their opportunity to own their own home."
Eagles, however, said his town – which has grown nearly 330 percent in the last six years – is attracting home buyers and doesn't need to change its rules.
"What I would say to legislators is, 'What are we doing wrong?'" he said. "Seems like we are doing something right."